Thursday, April 30, 2009

Upcoming Exhibition: Inside My Head

If you are in the Los Angeles area, check out the California African American Museum's upcoming exhibit Inside My Head: Intuitive Artists of African Descent. Says the CAAM:

"Inside My Head showcases the work of 32 contemporary artists of African descent who have developed a mature style in an intuitive manner. The exhibition explores pure artistic creativity and validates the connection to ethnic-specific traditions and ways of doing."

Featured in the exhibit is one of the Bay Area's artistic treasures, Karen Seneferu (her equally talented husband Malik Seneferu is also featured), debuting one of her uniquely handcrafted sculptural dolls entitled Two Degrees.

Seneferu says the piece is influenced by artist Renee Stout's Fetish II, and was intended as a response and dialogue to Stout's work, as well as "the spiritual projection of Yoruba's Inkisi."

Two Degrees links to the past through futuristic means: an ipod implanted in the sculpture's belly. "The iPod takes on various measures of I and Pod. It stores the souls of people of African descent through numerous pictures...each person, political figures, activists, instructors, students, and people on the street as individuals in his or her own right."

Seneferu's piece will also include the installation of an altar which promises to be a powerful fusion of modern technology and African spirit and history. Of her body of work, Karen says "I make ancestral relics, entities that preside over those who don't recognize their beauty or are in need of protection. I focus on the ways that fragmented parts, memories are retrievable. Now, technology allows me to reach into the past."

Inside My Head will be on display at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles from May 7th until September 27th, and features 32 amazing artists. For more info, check out:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Marissa's Latest: Map Piece

Map Piece is definitely a working title for this one. I've been experimenting with watercolor, gouache, and ink on the pages of old books for about a year now. This page came out of a book I found at Goodwill called The East Indiamen. I chose it because it was full of maps and illustrations of boats, movement, and travel. This particular page has a wonderful texture, almost like watercolor paper, and I was also liked the illustrations of spices traded and the map of Africa. The woman is painted in gouache and ink, and was inspired by stylized illustrations of the so-called "Hottentot Venus", Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman. I was considering the objectification of the black body, and how Black women's bodies have been viewed as chattel and a commodity for centuries.
. How does this history affect the way Black women themselves relate to their bodies? How much of our self image and self worth is tied up in the size of our posteriors, for example? This is why I embellished my character's backside with feathers and leaves. The perception of Black beauty and the reality of exploitation has been tied to a woman's curves. During slavery, a woman's voluptuousness meant fertility, which was tied to increasing a plantation's workforce. Now a woman's body sells everything from alcohol to cell phones. The idea of our bodies as a commodity has not changed. Saartjie Baartman was brought to the western world from Africa and paraded through circuses, homes, and exhibitions for the size of her behind and genitals. One cannot help but draw comparisons between these illustrations of Baartman and today's Black video and magazine models. Using the map, I contrasted this objectification with the colonization of Africa. Many of the issues Black people face today can be tied to the history of slavery and colonization beginning on the continent. The shapes I drew in ink all over Africa are symbols, each representing issues faced in Africa. There are symbols for invasion, colonization, genocide, AIDS, drought/famine, and war. I'll edit this and post a key soon.
I wanted to directly tie the Black woman's sense of self to the hardships faced in Africa and followed us to America during slavery.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Girlblue Project: Mayagoddess

Mayagoddess, 36
Austin, Texas

How has being a black woman in a predominantly white male music genre
affected you and your music? How did you come to be a part of the scene?

First of all i have to say how simultaneously ironic, amusing, exciting, and inspiring it is that the "black rock scene" is even being acknowledged at all in so many ways lately, let alone being documented and studied. My entire life has been about my intimate, if occasionally unhealthy, love affair with rock&roll and my own drive to live my life as a rock musician.

As a young girl growing up in what turned out to be an incredibly hostile environment, I learned early on that I was an outcast simply because of the color of my skin. It didn't help matters that I was a year younger and a head shorter than my classmates. I went to elementary school in a suburb of Houston, Texas where I was one of maybe 3 black kids in the entire school--and no one in my family explained to me what that might mean. what it did mean was complete alienation, verbal and physical abuse from my schoolmates, and relentless rejection at every turn. I had to figure it all out on my own...but by the time I did I had already latched onto my personal savior and imagined fairy godrocker in the form of Joan Jett. She taught me by shining flawless rock&roll example through her own life: the once laughed at outcast who became a huge success without compromising her unique self. She showed me how to not give a damn about what people thought of me, cuz they were the idiots, and I should be in fact PROUD of a "bad reputation."

I had already figured out what I wanted to do with my life around the age of 5 when I saw a Diana Ross concert on tv, and the light in my soul came on. It was at the ripe old age of 8 that I discovered Joan and really knew exactly what I had to do and how to do it. You see, I was already an outcast no matter what I did, so it didn't seem as unusual to me as it should have that a black female pre-teen in texas in the early 80's (or ever) would be a passionate rock&roll lover and aspiring rock guitarist. I had already been completely rejected (thank god) from anything mainstream, so being different just stopped being uncomfortable as a matter of practicality, freeing me to develop (gasp!) my own personality and direction.

Of course the reactions I would get when I first started playing out at age 17 initially stemmed from a place of shock, or cynical reactions to what was expected to be a novelty act... but I wasn't aware of any of that at the time. they may have started watching with folded arms and a smirk, ready to shake their heads at the joke onstage and walk away laughing, but that quickly shifted into shock over how hard they just got rocked.

By the time I got to New York City I was used to the freak show factor, I came to
appreciate it even. watching peoples' tiny little minds get blown open cuz I'm onstage in front of them.... seeing them go from snickering rubberneckers to awestruck fans by the end of a set... just because I AM the oddball, I am able to show folks some shit they ain't ever seen before, and feed it to them in a way they didnt know they were craving. I'm already something new just climbing onto a stage... 4 skinny white guys, 4 skinny white guys, 4 skinny white guys, *ME*. All I gotta do is deliver, and I change peoples' lives!